CLEVELAND - Movement was second nature to Judi Bar. Dancing had been not only her passion, but a career. And that’s how she first met yoga, as a way to get a good stretch.
“Yoga is a lot more than that,” she says now.
In the mid-1990s, she found herself in a spiral of chronic pain.
“[I] went to bed feeling normal one, I think it was a Friday night, because it was so profound I remember the day, and I woke up on Saturday morning and I couldn't walk,” said Judi. “I couldn't move, I started to have to walk with a cane. I was falling all the time. My legs would give out from under me. I couldn't sleep because it hurt. I couldn't do my normal activities.”
“I was told I had the back of an 85-year-old person. And here you know two weeks before that, I was teaching a ballet class,” she said.
After many doctors and visits, she was ultimately diagnosed with spinal stenosis and degenerative back disease. Doctors told her she’d be in a wheelchair soon if she didn't get surgery.
“I just said, stop, give me some time. I need to see if I can do something on my own,” she said. “My mom one day, said to me, ‘Why don't you go back to yoga?’"
The nudge and a new mat helped Judi start slow.
“When I say, yoga changed my life, it really did,” Judi says. With two years of work on her flexibility and focus, she bounced back. She even made it her work, finding ways to help others to empower themselves through the Cleveland Clinic.
“The Cleveland Clinic is just awesome in promoting wellness…Science has shown yoga can help stress reduction. It's the whole reason I'm here,” said Judi, now the yoga program manager at the first hospital system to even have such a program.
With teacher training, she’s instructing a new generation to spread a family legacy of adaptive wellness yoga. For anyone.
You can learn more about the program by clicking here.
“It’s [my] soul work,” says Judi. “It's what makes our hearts sing. It could be knitting, it could be gardening, it could be donating time, or all the above, to help kids read, whatever it is, that's what makes our hearts sing. Physiologically, that's so good for us, it makes us feel good, it calms the nervous system, it sends all those endorphins through us.”
2016 has been difficult at times for Judi. She’s living her practice through personal challenges, like losing her mother.
“My mom encompassed unconditional love,” said Judi. “She showed me what's it's like to be able to be that light to others.”
In a season of renewal, Judi is hoping to help others find yoga in the new year. “It can be a shining beam for other people to follow.”